Look, you’re going to want to watch Turner Classic Movies this weekend, which just has an embarrassing amount of great movies airing between Friday and Sunday, starting with a triple feature of Orson Welles’ Shakespeare adaptations tonight. This includes the hard-to-see Chimes At Midnight, which weaves together various appearances of Falstaff. But, true confession: I haven’t seen Chimes At Midnight yet—see above about it being hard to see—so I’ll be setting my own DVR to record that one myself.
So let me instead direct you to Things To Come, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Shape Of Things To Come scripted by Wells himself, produced by Alexander Korda, given stunning production design by Alexander’s brother Vincent Korda, and directed by special effects whiz William Cameron Menzies. The 1936 film is very much a reflection of Wells’ views at the time, which worried about the immediate future and saw a world government and some variety of socialism as the Earth’s best hope. Sweeping through the decades—from the near future of 1940 to the distant future of 1970 and beyond—it depicts a coming world war (accurate), the after-effects of biological warfare that thin the ranks of humanity and reduce most of the world to ruins (less accurate), and civilization’s eventual reconstruction, which includes wondrous technological advancements that allow humans to build a rocket capable of reaching the moon (accurate) that’s then threatened by luddites worked into frenzy by a charismatic sculptor (not accurate at this time).
Dramatically and narratively, the film has its problems, primarily a lumpen pace and dramatic scenes that don’t really work. But it’s full of fascinating ideas and, most remarkably, one incredible effects sequence after another, from a chilling air raid on an English city to the amazing use of miniatures to create futuristic technology like the flying fortresses of Wings Over The World. An inspiration for everyone whose worked in special effects ever since, it’s essential viewing for fans of science fiction films. Things To Come airs Saturday morning on TCM at 8 a.m. Eastern.